4. Prospect Cemetery (1660)

Locked up and largely forgotten amidst the hustle of Jamaica, Queens, Prospect Cemetery sits quietly, sandwiched between York University and an industrial zone. Located behind the Jamaica Long Island Railroad station, Prospect Cemetery was the burial ground for the First Presbyterian Church of Jamaica, originally the Old Stone Church, which was located a few blocks away on Union Hall Street. Though landmarked in 1977, the cemetery went through several decades of abandonment, disrepair, and vandalism. Today, the graveyard is somewhat overgrown, although the Romanesque Revival-style chapel has been restored.

Prospect Cemetery was established in 1660, according to the New York State Education Department plaque located here. New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission states that the earliest record of the cemetery is from 1668. In 1668, it became the public burial ground for the town of Jamaica, making it the first city cemetery in Queens. It would make sense that the burial ground was used for some years by the church before it was appropriated by the town. The cemetery increased in size over the years, but the original portion with the oldest gravestones sits within the narrowest portion of the cemetery. You can see this section from 158th Street.

Some of the notable people buried here include Egbert Benson, the first Attorney General of New York State, members of the Brinkerhoff, Sutphin, Van Wyck, Nostrand, Lefferts, Ludlam and Remsen families, and Revolutionary War activists including Increase Carpenter, Thomas Wicks, Henry Benson, Captain J.J. Skidmore, and Elias Baylis. The cemetery has about 500 gravestones, of which half are from the colonial era. The earliest tombstone still standing dates to 1709.